September 13, 2019
By far, the biggest political story in NC this week was the surprise budget override vote that occurred in the House on Wednesday. During an 8:30 a.m. announced session, the GOP-led House brought for consideration HB966, “Appropriations Act of 2019,” more commonly knows as the budget bill. By a vote of 55 Republicans to 9 Democrats, the bill passed and was sent to the Senate. That body must now successfully override the bill in order for the budget to become law. Needless to say, the House override Wednesday morning came as a huge surprise to Democrats, who saw many of their caucus members not in the chamber at the time of the vote. In an effort to share the most detailed and unbiased account of Wednesday’s activities, we’ve provided the following links to local articles:
Special Congressional Election: NC-District 3
Two special Congressional elections were held in NC on Tuesday. In NC-District 3, Republican state House member, Dr. Greg Murphy, easily defeated former Democrat mayor of Greenville, Allen Thomas, Libertarian Tim Harris, and Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt. Murphy won with an impressive 67.74% of the vote. The district, which includes all or part of 17 eastern NC counties, was represented by Republican Walter B. Jones, Jr. from 1994 until his death in February of this year. The special election was called to finish out Jones’ term. Murphy’s road to victory wasn’t an easy one. First, he faced a packed primary election with a field of 17 candidates, followed by a runoff when no one received 30% of the required primary vote. Next, Murphy engaged in a highly contentious runoff battle against Republican Joan Perry, defeating her in July to earn the GOP nomination. District 3 is considered to be drawn as a safe GOP district, so it was widely agreed that the actual congressional race would be decided in the special primary election rather than the general. Murphy credited a grassroots campaign for his victory, telling supporters Tuesday night that he now will embark on his journey in Washington as the “We the People Congressman.”
Special Congressional Election: NC-District 9
In NC-9, a much tighter race ended with Republican state Senator, Dan Bishop, narrowly beating Democrat Dan McCready by only two percentage points (51%-49%). The 9th district special election was called after the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) chose not to certify the results of the 2018 general election in which Republican Mark Harris was initially declared the winner over McCready. Following SBOE hearings in February, the Harris campaign was found guilty of engaging in ballot tampering and fraud, and a new election was ordered. Harris chose not to run again, setting the stage for a packed primary that included Bishop, who went on to win the special primary election this summer. The 9th is also considered a “safe GOP district.” How safe? So safe, Republicans have held the seat since 1963 and Trump won the district by 11% in 2016. Many political pundits are referring to those facts as better indicators of what to expect in 2020 than Bishop’s victory Tuesday night. Some see the “too close to call” race as an ominous sign for Republicans. While others, including the President, see Bishop’s win as evidence that the GOP is strong in a state that will play a critical role in 2020. NC will host the RNC National Convention next summer in Charlotte.
NC Legislative Redistricting Update
Last week, a three-judge panel ruled that NC’s legislative districts are unconstitutional due to partisan gerrymandering and must be redrawn for the 2020 election cycle. State lawmakers were given a deadline of Sept. 18th to complete the redraw of the legislative maps, and were ordered to “follow strict nonpartisan criteria while maintaining transparency” throughout the process. Under these guidelines, members of the House and Senate Redistricting Committees began redrawing the legislative maps on Monday. The court ruling imposed a number of restrictions on what lawmakers can and cannot do with regards to the redistricting process, such as prohibiting the use of partisan data, the use of the invalidated 2017 districts as starting points, and disproportionately pairing incumbents in the same voting district. On Monday, both committees initially voted to use maps created by Jowei Chen, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, as starting points. Chen previously produced 2,000 maps for the redistricting trial. However, it was discovered that Chen’s maps contained partisan data, such as partisan scoring. Ultimately, both the House and Senate voted to use only maps generated by Chen that scored best on certain principles like compactness and minimizing split voting. Members were allowed to introduce amendments for consideration to ensure incumbents wouldn’t be double-bunked in the same proposed district. Thursday, both committees spent hours considering the proposed amendments in an effort to get finalized legislative maps to their respective floors for votes ahead of next Wednesday’s court ordered deadline. The House Redistricting Committee reconvened this morning at 9:00 with an objective of getting finalized maps to the full House for a floor vote later today. The Senate Redistricting Committee also reconvened at 9:00 this morning, but only to take-up amendments. A floor vote on the redrawn Senate maps is not expected until next week. All redistricting committee work is being live-streamed on the General Assembly website in order to remain in compliance with the court order requiring transparency. Updated maps are provided on the site, as well. Putting this into perspective, Democrats would need to win 6 additional House seats or 5 Senate seats to flip one or both of the chambers. This is critical, as the majority parties following the 2020 election will control redistricting (a once-a-decade process) in 2021.
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